The bizarre stories of censorship and bullying by trans activists frequently made baffling reading. But the spectacle of Miranda Yardley, a self-identified transsexual, ending up in the dock for apparent ‘transphobia’ (all at the behest of a non-trans person) really takes the biscuit. An author would struggle to pitch such an incredible scenario at a publisher but, to quote Mark Twain, truth is stranger than fiction. Our post-truth world is off the scale.
The story started with a social media spat between Yardley and a campaigner called Helen Islan. Yardley is a transsexual with a strong view on gender politics: namely that male people cannot become female people just because they want to. Most people would probably agree with that but in the looking glass world of Twitter such views are verboten (hence why Miranda was booted from the platform in 2018).
Islan is a self-proclaimed trans ally who seeks to defend the rights of trans people. While that might sound a noble aim (trans people continue to face disproportionate abuse just for wanting to live their lives in peace), the term has become increasingly politicised: in fact most allies spend their time focusing on attacking anyone (women’s groups in particular) who suggests that the issue of transgenderism might more complicated than allowing anyone who feels female to be legally treated as such. Islan has also been closely connected with Mermaids UK, a charity that recently secured half a million pounds of lottery money to expand its services for children and teenagers who feel at odds with their birth gender.
In April last year, Islan complained about Yardley to West Yorkshire Police. This constabulary has a record of investigating potential transphobic hate crime with enthusiasm. While trans people like me really do appreciate efforts to stamp out the intimidation and abuse we face on the street, West Yorkshire Police take an enthusiastic interest in political disputes between campaigners. Even worse, their reach extends far beyond their county: they previously spoke to Graham Linehan (creator of Father Ted) and sent officers to interview Posie Parker (creator of the Woman = Adult Human Female campaign). In Yardley’s case they managed to convince the CPS that a social media squabble between consenting adults constituted harassment. In April last year, Yardley was interviewed under caution, then in August fingerprinted and charged with harassment with the aggravating circumstances that the crime was motivated by transphobia.
Last Friday I was at Basildon Magistrates Court to act as a witness for the defence. Fortunately, as the case didn't get far, I wasn't required to speak. In fact, the case was thrown out shortly after Islan testified - in response District Judge John Woollard told the prosecution they had failed to make any case and awarded costs to the defence.
After ten months this bizarre case where a trans person had been accused of a transphobic hate crime by someone who was not trans, was dismissed by a district judge as groundless. How did we get here?
Are we really in a post-truth world where opinions take precedence over facts, and feelings are able to negate reasoned argument? Certainly in Islan’s opinion Yardley was a transphobe, and she was certainly upset. But why did West Yorkshire Police investigate a political dispute, and the CPS then prosecute it? The deleterious effect of post-modern identity politics is certainly a factor, but there are some rather more specific alarm bells ringing in this case: who has been training public bodies including the police and the CPS? Training and education on transgender inclusion is firmly in the grip of advocacy groups including Mermaids UK, the group that Islan herself has been closely involved with. Mermaids proudly cite their training of the police on their own website. Meanwhile the CPS took advice from a Mermaids representative when formulating their own guidance. The potential for conflicts of interest are staring us in the face.
Policy has clearly failed once again. Last year the prison service hurriedly reviewed policy when a rapist was placed in a female prison on account of their feelings. Now a trans person has been hauled before a court on a clearly ridiculous charge. What will be next? Perhaps we need to review policy across society before further problems emerge. While feelings are important, policy needs to be grounded in facts. It is not only the police service and CPS that should be reviewing policy before further injustices arise.